Dayanna Cardoso is a student at Monticello High School. She’s your typical high school junior. Between juggling homework and preparing for SATs, she’s also an IRS certified tax advisor.
Cardoso is a member of the Academy of Finance’s (VITA) voluntary income tax assistance program. The students spend months training with the finance director Susan Bahrenburg from VITA and the math teacher Eric Shewmaker, practicing tax returns and even learning tax law.
They must pass an IRS exam before they can prepare free taxes for members of the community.
“It feels really good because I know I’m helping. It’s a free service and something for the community,” said Cardoso.
What you need to know
- The students, mostly high school graduates, are IRS certified tax accountants
- To qualify to have your taxes prepared by students on the program, you must earn less than $ 57,000 per year
- Participants in the program say it teaches them a vital skill that they can share with friends and family
Students take the job very seriously and spend hours each week browsing clients’ W-2 forms and documents. You help the community, but also learn an important life skill.
“Taxes are something everyone is talking about, and you hear it all your life. So I just thought it would be a great chance to understand something that a lot of kids in high school can’t do,” the Monticello said High School Senior Fiona Hajdaraj.
Now she can help her parents too.
“They say, ‘Please study because we didn’t get this in high school,'” Hajdaraj said. “They’re strangers, so they don’t understand at all. I’ll do it for them too, so I can teach them in some way.”
After a student finishes with each client’s file, Shewmaker reviews it before officially submitting it.
“I also questioned it at the beginning. I’m only 17 years old. How do I do someone’s taxes?” Said Hajdaraj. “But when you get the basics and pay as much in taxes as we do, this is definitely something that is easy to understand.”